Breast and cervical cancer screenings down due to COVID-19, doctors warn of cancer spike

HOUSTON – Both mammogram and cervical cancer screenings have declined since COVID-19 started in part because they fell under elective procedures that were temporarily canceled during stay-home orders across Texas.

Since restrictions for elective procedures have been lifted, doctors say they’re surprised they haven’t seen people coming back to get those exams done.

It reflects behavior across many health platforms though, people have avoided seeing doctors out of fear of coronavirus exposure at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare establishments.

Although, some patients had to continue going for treatments throughout COVID closures because of potentially life-threatening illnesses like cancer.

Chealci Eddins from Humble was diagnosed with breast cancer right before coronavirus hit our area.

“I did a little millennial research, I looked on the internet on my own, just to prepare myself for what I was about to hear,” Eddins explained after she felt a lump.

She’s only 27-years-old. She is a mother, wife, teacher, and just like you, she is navigating a global pandemic, all at the same time.

“All of my life I’ve had to carry a lot of weight on my back to be successful so I’m like ‘you know what I’m not going let cancer beat me. I’m not even going to let it get in my mind. I’m about to beat this!’" Eddins said.

Breast Oncologist Jessica Trevino Jones, MD, with Memorial Hermann Cancer Center and UT Physicians said she’s worried about so many cancellations of cancer screenings (like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings) that have not been rescheduled despite restrictions lifted on elective procedures. She said that there will be a major uptick in cancer later on if women don’t get these done now.

“One in eight women get breast cancer and it’s detected by a mammogram. If those eight women don’t even show up for a mammogram, you have to know that we’re missing that one person that could’ve been saved,” Jones said.

She warns patients like Eddins could be more at risk of deadly complications too.

“African-American women may have more aggressive breast cancer once diagnosed. I think women deserve to beat breast cancer. We will not let COVID take this away from us.” Jones said.

Eddins never had the option to stay home for her health. Her life depended on therapies at the hospital. Sometimes she was sitting alone for hours to get it done but she encourages other women to get their screenings. She can attest to what doctors at Memorial Hermann have been saying all along how they will keep you safe from coronavirus while you’re here.

“I appreciate that because I didn't have to stress about COVID on top of everything, all the other hats that I wear,” Eddins said.

Jones said early detection is key in breast cancer and because of COVID canceling screenings over the last three months, she said it’s been projected that almost 40,000 women have a missed diagnosis of breast cancer